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Irony is often defined as saying one thing, yet doing or meaning something else. The use of irony can be seen in Sonnet 57 when the poet says: “Nor dare I question with my jealous thought / Where you may be, or your affairs suppose.” Clearly, although the poet says he is not jealous or thinking about where his beloved may be — he is obviously obsessing about why and how his beloved is absent. This conveys the sense that the poet does not want to mull over where his beloved is philandering. The poet feels that to do so is debasing and enslaving — yet the poet, despite his better intentions cannot stop himself. And the greatest irony, writes that poet, is that although the beloved is unfaithful, the loving poet, mad with longing, cannot help but be true: “So true a fool is love that in your will, / Though you do any thing, he thinks no ill.”

Q5. How has the role of women changed over time periods we have studied so far?

In the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, women have a relatively minor role. The central narrative of Beowulf could be characterized as a quest epic in which the central hero embarks upon a quest to defeat several monsters. The primary interactions within the tales take place between Beowulf and the other great warriors who respect his prowess. However, there is one female figure of note in the story: Grendels mother. Grendels mother, filled with hatred for the warrior who has murdered her son, proves to be a formidable opponent.

Beowulf is not fundamentally misogynistic or anti-feminist in its orientation. But it is a male epic in the sense that it is through physical might and prowess that an individual proves himself in society, and other than as monsters, because women do not participate in military valor, they are marginal figures.

In sharp contrast to Beowulf is Alexander Popes feminine epic poem “The Rape of the Lock,” which tells the story of how a young woman named Belindas lock of hair is surreptitiously clipped by an unwanted male suitor during a game of cards. The event is given great dramatic weight and force in the context of the story. In Popes poem, feminine rather than masculine concerns are at the forefront of the story. Belinda even has seraphim and other types of angels guarding her, to suggest the seismic importance of her hair, her social concerns, and other aspects of life associated with femininity.

Of course, “The Rape of the Lock” is a comic poem, partially meant to satirize feminine concerns. However, even the males in the poem are preoccupied with cards, parties, and romance. The hero strikes back, not with force, but with a pair of scissors against Belindas hair. This suggests that a shift has occurred in English literature by the 18th century. Rather than purely masculine, externally-driven epics of war, there has been a shift in writers concerns. The epics of the 18th century, as exemplified in Popes poem, are concerned.

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